Covid Testing
12 Feb 2021
Stephanie Casimiro

Possible Problems with Pre-Cruise COVID Testing

In October 2020, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents major cruise lines around the globe, announced requirements for mandatory pre-cruise COVID-19 testing and released the following statement:

“CLIA ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to 100% testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons – with a negative test required for any embarkation. This is a travel industry first and an example of the cruise line industry leading the way.”

According to Travel + Leisure, CLIA represents 95% of the global cruise capacity and includes members such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and MSC Cruises.

The announcement came out before the expiration of the CDC’s no-sail order on October 31, 2020. A “conditional sail order” is currently in effect, which calls for a gradual, phased resumption of cruise operations to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread. However, cruising in North America is still effectively shut down, with most cruise lines canceling all cruises through April or May of 2021.

CLIA’s statement said, “We see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the well-being of passengers, the crews, and the communities we visit our top priority.”

Unfortunately, pre-cruise COVID-19 testing is far from foolproof. In December, the Washington Post reported that Sea Dream Yacht Company, which planned to create a “COVID-19 negative bubble” as they cruised from Barbados, had seven passengers and two crew members test positive during the trip. This occurred despite everyone being tested twice before the trip, including once immediately before boarding, and testing negative both times.

The article went on to say, “Pre-cruise testing does not guarantee a safe bubble.”

Two of the main issues with testing are:

  • A person who was incubating the virus may have an undetectable viral load when initially tested
  • A person may be exposed to the virus after testing but before boarding the ship

It seems, just as CLIA stated, COVID testing is just one step of many in stopping the spread of the virus. CLIA has also issued a number of other safety mandates, including mask-wearing (when social distancing cannot be maintained), social distancing, enhanced ventilation, medical response plans (in the event someone becomes ill), and limitations on shore excursions.

Still, cruise lines will have to be vigilant and prove they can cruise safely before the industry can start to emerge from the impacts of the pandemic. If your cruise line is looking for technology solutions that can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, visit our website or contact us.

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